By: Nader Fawz
Published Wednesday, January 18, 2012
What does a Lebanese citizen who is imprisoned in a foreign country do?
If he were a diamond merchant in Africa, MPs would send a high-ranking delegation from their ranks to the county in question in order to advocate for the detainee.
But if such a detainee is not politically connected, then little can be done. Taking this into consideration, what should a Lebanese political prisoner in a French prison do?
So far, the answer seems to be nothing. The Lebanese diplomatic corps has not followed up on the issue, the family of the prisoner has no political backing, and no concerned political forces have taken action on the matter recently.
The only people concerned with the cause of Georges Abdallah, who has been imprisoned in France since October 1984, are his family, close friends, and a few young activists from the Union of Lebanese Democratic Youth (ULDY). They are also the only ones who are familiar with the details of his case.
They know that Abdallah completed his sentence 12 years ago and that the decision to keep him in prison is motivated by politics. They know that French prosecutors rejected, appealed, and suspended French court decisions to free Abdallah.
They know that he has filed for parole nine times but that all of his requests have been rejected by the French judicial and political authorities.
They know that the French authorities are keeping Georges Abdallah in prison because, when asked, he tells judges in French courtrooms that if he were to get out of prison, he would not stop his political struggle to liberate Palestine.
While his supporters have little political backing, advocates for Abdallah have established two different organizations to lobby for his release. The first is the International Campaign to Free Georges Abdallah (ICFGA). The other is a domestic organization – the Committee of the Comrades of Georges Abdallah (CCGA) – which is primarily made up of his family members, friends, ULDY, and various independent figures.
Twenty-eight years have passed since Abdallah’s arrest and yet many in Lebanon are ignorant concerning the specifics of his case. Some officials still ask who Georges Abdallah is, while others accept the French authorities’ opinion that he is “a terrorist and a subversive.”
This explains why a close aid of Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said that the prime minister does not know yet if he is going to bring up Abdallah’s case with French officials during his upcoming visit to France in the first week of February.
This announcement was made despite a visit Wednesday by a delegation from the ICFGA, its second, to the prime minister’s office.
Lebanese officials have not taken action on Abdallah’s case since 1999 when Salim al-Hoss was prime minister. Similar negligence can be observed by other groups in relation to Abdallah’s case, even within some leftist circles to which he belongs.
For example, a few days ago, a conference of the Arab left was held in Beirut. Arab participants paid tribute at the conference to “all the prisoners and detainees in Arab and Western prisons, especially the Palestinian and Arab prisoners in Zionist prisons.”
But neither the summaries, nor the tributes, nor the conference itself remembered Georges Abdallah.
About one week ago, communication was established between the ICFGA and the Lebanese Consul in France, Ghadi el-Khoury.
El-Khoury told Abdallah’s “comrades” that he discussed the issue with French officials and sent a telegram informing the Lebanese Foreign Ministry about the inquiry and the details of the conversation between the consul and those advocating for Abdallah.
Abdallah’s comrades later found out from the French that “the Lebanese state is not demanding the release of Abdallah.” Abdallah’s supporters say that this should call into question the extent to which the Lebanese government is working for the release of Abdallah.
Two weeks ago, on 5 January 2012, a member of the Free Patriotic Movement’s (FPM) Change and Reform bloc, MP Simon Abi Ramia, sent a message to Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour inquiring about the position of the Lebanese state regarding Abdallah and its failure to demand his release.
The answer was delayed. A written answer concerning the state’s position on Mansour was expected to be delivered within a matter of hours. Instead, the question made the rounds for days between the office of the prime minister and other decision-making centers. This suggests that something is in the works regarding Abdallah’s case among certain parliamentary circles, specifically the Change and Reform bloc, the Amal Movement’s Resistance and Development bloc, and Hezbollah’s Loyalty to the Resistance bloc.
After Abi Ramia’s action, informed sources indicated that two MPs, Nawwar al-Sahili (Hezbollah) and Ali Bazzi (Amal), were assigned the task of following up on the issue. They have been working behind the scenes trying to get to know the details of the case.
Joseph Abdallah, Georges Abdallah’s brother, who is active in the CCGA and the ICFGA says: “In light of the work done by the campaign and certain developments that have taken place, there is talk suggesting that the issue of Georges Abdallah will be raised again.”
Jospeh points to what the former Director of French Intelligence Yves Bonnet told the newspaper La Dépêche on 7 January 2012, when he attacked his government, characterizing the continued detention of Georges a “scandal” arguing that the issue has become one of “state vengeance.”
Joseph says there are developments that must be taken seriously without “deluding ourselves with anything.” That is, without misleading Georges’ comrades and friends concerning what the Lebanese state is capable of doing for Abdallah.
On the other hand, the committee leader in the ULDY, Hassan Sabra, says that the group has worked on this issue since 2006 and will continue to do so until Abdallah is released. Sabra adds that they have established direct communication with the “freedom fighter” because “he trusts us and our activism and he is in line with our views.”
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.